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Wednesday (2022): A Conversation on Latine and Neurodivergent Representation



Wednesday follows the moody character, Wednesday Addams during her formative years as a teen sleuth. Jenna Ortega plays the angsty Addams and expands the character we’ve seen many times before. Finally able to embrace their mixed-Latiné heritage, the show lightly touches on the potential. At times, viewers can feel seen in the show in a variety of ways but ultimately by not leaning into or confidently establishing certain characteristics, the show falls short of good representation.


Sources in this Episode:

 

Media from this week's episode:

Wednesday (2022)

Follows Wednesday Addams' years as a student, when she attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a killing spree, and solve the mystery that embroiled her parents.

Creators: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

 

Wednesday: The Latine Addams' and a Desire for Intentional Representation by Gabe Castro


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Wednesday follows the moody character, Wednesday Addams during her formative years as a teen sleuth. Jenna Ortega plays the angsty Addams and expands the character we’ve seen many times before. I loved the Addams Family movies growing up and after watching the show, quickly rewatched the films to experience the horror and fun that was Debbie. IYKYK. Ortega’s Wednesday steps into her own version of the character, expanding the lore we’d seen with other young Wednesdays, including co-star Christina Ricci’s murderous little Pocahontas.


Because this show offered us more time to spend with the peculiar family, known for their morbid fascinations and intense love for one another, we get a backstory and deeper glimpses into their peculiarities. Wednesday Addams has been expelled from another normie school and is now, as a last resort, being sent to a school for outcasts just like her, Nevermore Academy. Morticia and Gomez had met there and are a bit of a legacy. It’s a bit strange they didn’t start here but nevertheless, Wednesday sees this as a new challenge to escape the norm. Though the norm, in this case, is the abnorm…


While at Nevermore Academy, Wednesday learns some things about herself, the town, and the people in it. Reluctantly, she finds strength in friendship. Specifically with the quirky, bright, and lovable Enid, a femme werewolf who hasn’t turned yet. Enid constantly serves as a queer metaphor, for her closeted transformation woes. Even further, she’s a trans metaphor (just look at her hair) and when her mother hints at a special lycanthropy conversion camp for girls like her, it’s hard to miss the idea. Though, as I’ll be explaining a few times in this episode, just hinting at or doing the bare minimum with a diverse character isn’t enough. I’m of the mind that Wednesday didn’t need a love triangle, she needed a werewolf girlfriend and I hold out hope for such a twist in season 2. I’m just saying, do more than make her love rainbows.


Wednesday is a mystery show with bug-eyed monsters and a protagonist that hasn’t quite figured out the world isn’t against her yet. With the previous iterations of Wednesday, her macabre fascinations and quirks were fine because she was minimal and one-dimensional. With this series, Wednesday can grow a little or become more than a one-note oddity. She investigates monster attacks in this town and unravels the complicated, though still foggy, history of the town while also finding herself.


The Latiné Addams’


The family was originally created by Charles Addams in 1938 and was an antithesis of the nuclear family. They celebrated the macabre and delighted in the bizarre, though never condescending or judgemental to other, normal families. They simply knew what they liked and did as they pleased. The family started as comic strips in the New Yorker.


The 1960s dark comedy sitcom expanded the delightful world of the otherworldly family and also made them Latiné. Actor John Astin was given free rein to name the patriarchal character and he chose Gomez. He told the Ocala Star Banner that he was also free to “inject the “Latin-lover blood in Gomez’s veins.” Despite this questionable JK Rowling approach to character naming, the family became at the very least mixed race. Later, with the 90’s films, Puerto Rican actor and phenomenal artist, Raul Juliá elevated the character further solidifying the character’s design completely as a loving, romantic, and very Latiné father. With the Netflix series, this latin identity is expanded past the Latin flare of Gomez and his love for Morticia and we’re given an entire backstory of their heritage. Ortega was excited to play Wednesday, explaining, “Wednesday is technically a Latina character and that’s never been represented. So, for me, anytime that I have an opportunity to represent my community, I want that to be seen.” Just a side note, I had no idea that Ortega was Puerto Rican and Mexican or that Luis Guzman is also Puerto Rican and I am just elated to see some fellow Boriquas on screen! Despite this win for representation, the Netflix series at times felt like a blind casting world. Wednesday and her family’s Latiné heritage, though confirmed and nodded at throughout the series, does little to drive the plot.


It’s a terribly missed opportunity and I was thankful to find someone who agreed with me on Refinery.com, in their article, There's a Major Issue With Latina Representation In Wednesday writer Nicole Froio explains, “While it is refreshing to see a non-stereotypical Latina role, I would have loved the series to take advantage of the rich cultural landscape of Brujeria, delve into Mexican mythology and beliefs in the paranormal, and truly integrate Mexican traditions and creeds around death into the already eerie Addams Family narrative. Instead, Wednesday relies on simply telling its audience that the main character is Latina and moving on.” Instead, the show offers us a tinted Goody Addams. There would be so much to explore and unpack by having her ancestors be persecuted by the white puritan pilgrims. Wednesday has been known to, at the very least, be an ally to indigenous peoples. Couldn’t this Wednesday take it a step further and actually discuss the issues? Also, just a quick question timeline-wise because clearly Goody Addams is a seer or whatever but she’s Gomez’ ancestor not Morticia’s so why did Gomez’ ancestor have to connect with her over a Morticia-based magical trait?? Also also, Goody was a pilgrim, not a native so why is she an other or outcast?


Complicated Histories

Because Wednesday’s ancestor, Goody Addams is a pilgrim and therefore also a colonizer, it’s a little hard to sympathize with her plight. But even stepping away from that flaw, there is the issue of their colorblind casting method in the show. We love representation and diverse characters, but as we’ve said many times on the Ghouls, when you make a character Black or Brown or any other minority, you need to consider what that means to the character now. In that same article from earlier, they mention, “The few Black characters on Wednesday play the role of bullies and — shockingly — settlers. An example of this is the character of Lucas, who appears dressed as a pilgrim in Episode 1. When challenged by Wednesday about his costume, Lucas reveals that he works at the Pilgrim World theme park. “It takes a special kind of stupid to devote an entire theme park to zealots responsible for mass genocide,” Wednesday responds, but Lucas isn’t dissuaded. He reveals that his father owns Pilgrim World, effectively positioning a Black character as someone who profits off celebrating colonization.” Bianca, the siren and most powerful girl in the school is a bully for no good reason in the beginning. She’s getting the Prudence treatment of being sidelined for the white or white-passing chosen one. Though she does come around in the end as a friend and sticks up for herself, it says a lot to make one of the only POCs a villain for so much of the first season. Then there’s the issue that Froio brings up about the mayor of this town, Lucas’ dad. A Black man runs this historically problematic town and owns the problematic theme park. And he is threatened and ridiculed by a white woman, Morticia, later when she accuses him of not understanding the unfairness of society and being a part of the problem. He can certainly be a part of the problem, being that he is a man in power. But he’s also a Black mayor in a racist town that loves to hate outcasts. We missed some conversation points here. Froio ties it up nicely explaining, “At the end of the show, the tally is clear: white characters are the victims of colonization, Black people are bullies, and settlers and Indigenous people simply do not exist beyond rhetorical tools for white victimhood.”


Final Thoughts:

All that being said, it was a fun show. At times, cute even. Kat is going to discuss some of the other problems we have with the character of Wednesday. But I do want it to be known that I did enjoy the show. I didn’t care for Fred Armisen’s Fester but some people liked it. I had fun trying to solve the mystery and despite my intense dislike for chosen-one characters, I liked Wednesday. I loved that the Addams’ got to embrace their Latiné mixed identities. I am excited about the next season and to see how the other characters can step into the light a little.

 

Complexities of Representation: A Neurodivergent Human's Take on Wednesday Addams by Kat Kushin


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Today we are discussing Wednesday Addams and unpacking who they are as a character. The fun thing about Wednesday and characters like her are they are not real people, so like any art, it is up to the viewer to analyze who they are. Analyze why they do the things they do, and because they aren’t real, any and all interpretations have the potential to be correct. The beautiful thing about art and media in general is everyone takes something different away from the experience. So I’ll be unpacking what I took away from the show, and offer up some other perspectives that I found on the internet. In unpacking Wednesday as a character, the disclaimer is we can’t diagnose this character with any specific thing as they aren’t real, but we can at least agree that Wednesday is an interesting and relatable character and I'll get into why. The show has been really popular both because Jenna Ortega does an amazing job bringing new energy to the role, and because the framing of the show took a new direction in a coming-of-age teen mystery drama. The plot sets us up with relatable characters, a group of outcasts that have finally found a place they belong, and provides us with an alternative school setting that doesn’t drain them of their individuality or demonize them, but instead encourages their unique skills and interests. A show like Wednesday is a response to a societal desire to belong and feel accepted in a world that often doesn’t provide that kind of comfort. It shows us an imperfect but interesting setting for these characters to grow, and hopefully, we get a season 2. Ultimately it is a reflection that many people do not feel supported in our society, in our schooling system, or by our societal structure…so seeing the characters in the show who have been positioned as eccentric and otherwise not accepted people find community and care is comforting. There are lots of characters outside of Wednesday too that I hope will get a little more shine in season 2, and also hopefully new characters for us to bond with.


I’ll be really honest that there were parts of the show that I loved and other parts that I didn’t enjoy, but I think any of what I didn’t enjoy was mostly because of the writing and had less to do with any of the characters or actors themselves. They didn’t give enough attention to characters outside of Wednesday and also didn’t write them intentionally in my opinion. Gabe discusses this more in their section. The thing I loved most about the show was the relationships between Wednesday and the other characters and the conflicts that they explored, as well as commentary on society as a whole. Online there is a lot of debate around the character of Wednesday and the ways that the representation presented by the show with Wednesday has been positive as well as harmful. Specifically, in the way her character has been viewed as fun, quirky, and really interesting as a concept but not as an actual person. Now Wednesday is not a real person, but the character exhibits many traits found in neurodiversity and neurodivergent people are real. Many people have opened up about not being treated with care or kindness by many of the same people who claim love Wednesday on social media. A big problem that came up was the people who enjoyed Wednesday but did not transfer that positive feeling to people who actually exhibit similar traits to Wednesday in the real world. In an article on the Sun titled HERE WE WOE I’m neurodivergent and here’s my issue with Netflix’s Wednesday by Laura Carreno-Muller they go through some of the positives and negatives of the popularity of Wednesday as a character They say. “TikTok users quickly made and jumped on a new trend replicating her dance in the fourth episode of the Netflix series. Among them, people who were recognized as bullies of the same type of individuals who heavily identified with Wednesday during their childhood or adolescence. This led to an uproar coming from former "outcasts'' who had survived the teasing and bullying they may have endured for being neurodivergent. As Tiktok user Goblyn Lawless put it in one of their posts: "I’m reminded that I’m liked more as a concept, from afar, than as a real person." Fellow TikTok user Reggie 1423 also added: "The Wednesday Addams trend but you’re autistic and had to manually blink and work on facial expressions as a kid to not freak people out."

The biggest problem I found to be consistent across the internet is that while it’s great so many people relate to Wednesday, if Wednesday existed in the real world, they would likely not be enjoyed on such a large scale. They would face what many people who exist outside what is considered “normal” face at the hands of people who fit the social mold. They would not be a TikTok trend. They would be bullied and ridiculed for the same “quirks” that have been celebrated on social media.


Another issue that was discussed on the interwebs is the complicated impact of Wednesday being coded as autistic but not explicitly stated as being such. Lots of people within a Reddit thread that Gabe found for me had conflicting viewpoints on audiences “diagnosing” Wednesday and saw it as another instance of the media taking complex psychological and neurological concepts and watering them down. The original poster of the thread felt very strongly that they did not want people to perpetuate the idea that Wednesday was autistic because they found it harmful. There are ways that I can understand and even agree with that take in that there are aspects of Wednesday that if accepted as the poster child of what it means to be autistic could cause harm. Both because autism exists on a spectrum and no autistic person is the exact same so therefore a poster child for autism is impossible to represent all varieties of autism that exist and because Wednesday as a character is written to have murderous intent, as well as receiving enjoyment in the pain of others. Having that associated with autism, a neurological disorder that is already highly stigmatized, misunderstood, and even feared is harmful. Especially because murderous feelings and the enjoyment of others' pain are not traits of autism, they do not exist within the diagnostic criteria, so seeing Wednesday as a blanket representation of autism could lead people to have even more misconceptions about what being autistic means. So in that way, I totally see where they are coming from. Lots of people within the thread also saw no problem with the association but like any community, there are differing views throughout, and not everyone is going to think the same thing. I think the most important takeaway is that while the character of Wednesday does exhibit some traits of autism like a flat facial affect, a monotone way of speaking, a fierce sense of justice, a dislike of touching, and a misunderstanding of social conventions, and social cues that do not equate to a diagnosis. And as Wednesday isn’t a real person, and the creators have not stated that was their intention, I think it’s important to not make claims that can’t be substantiated as if they are factual or confirmed. Think whatever you wanna think but like recognize that not everyone is gonna agree,


With that being said, as a neurospicy human myself, I found Wednesday unbelievably validating and I related to them A LOT. Both in her interactions with others and how other characters interpreted her actions. I have acted in ways similar to Wednesday when I felt cornered, hurt, or overwhelmed by the unspoken expectations and social conventions of others. There were scenes that felt so reminiscent of actual arguments and conversations I’ve had in my life that reactivated those emotions for me. The show in that way was so nice and validating to watch because like Wednesday others were always quick to make assumptions about my intentions and those assumptions were almost always incorrect. There are so many other ways I related to Wednesday but the list includes: being very anti-touch, misunderstanding social conventions, not understanding what people expect from you in friendships, being inappropriately honest, having flat facial expressions, having a monotone way of speaking, being intensely interested in things that other people found creepy or otherwise uninteresting, a radical and sometimes unethical sense of justice, being blinded by the pursuit of knowledge and forgetting the feelings of others, misunderstanding the intentions of others in a situation and assuming the worst, as well as preferring the company of animals, and inanimate objects to people. Many of these things were things that were used as reasons to make fun of me in elementary school and is the main reason I struggled to maintain friendships as a kid, and honestly still do. So seeing a character like Wednesday make friends and find belonging was kind of cathartic for me, cause it’s a hopeful take on feeling like an outsider.


From the point of relation, the enjoyment of Wednesday is definitely something to be celebrated. If it made you feel seen, that’s amazing, cause that’s what media should do. And in that way, I think the show is really powerful, in that it made many feel like they could find a place they belong.

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